Throughout history, artists have found their inspiration from various sources. But for those inspiring sparks, the artists themselves might not have become household names. Some sparks are quite famous – for example, the story of how Leonardo da Vinci was approached by Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Giocondo, who asked for a portrait of his wife, Lisa del Giocondo. Of course the Mona Lisa went on to become the most famous painting of all time. Some artists travel far and wide for inspiration, while others stay closer to home – think Whistler’s Mother.
So, say that you are an artist creating fine watches. Where do you turn for inspiration? Well, as highly-mechanical devices, watches share several qualities with supercars and, given that fast cars live and die by the clock, many watch designers have sought internal-combustion muses.
The six watchmakers featured in Time for Speed have created spectacular timepieces by using supercars as the fonts for their creativity. It’s been quite a ride for an industry that started over three hundred years ago (apparently, just after time was invented).
A prefatory note before we commence this mechanical adventure – I am more of a “car guy” than a “watch guy”. Being far more knowledgeable about hot rods than horology, I am more at home with torque than tourbillions. Nevertheless, I do have a very modest watch collection and know a little about the mechanics of time-keeping machines, so tighten those straps and off we go!
Ferrari, one of Italy’s oldest supercar ateliers and finest Formula One teams, has been a storied marque since 1929. Hublot, a Swiss firm founded in 1980, was looking to be involved with both a supercar marque as well as with Formula One racing, so the Hublot-Ferrari match was natural. Hublot is very involved with Ferrari, and participates in about 20 major events every year – over 130 joint events to date. Hublot describes their relationship with Ferrari as one comprised of “success, happiness, harmony, synergy, emotion and dreams”, a relationship that just keeps getting better. Hublot decided that, rather than just connect with the Ferrari brand by licensing the name and logo, they would create a “360-degree, 365-day relationship”.
Hublot’s flagship model is the MP-05 LaFerrari pictured here ($345,000), a high-tech timepiece comprised of a Hublot-record 637 components (including eleven barrels arranged like a spinal column) which boasts a 50-day power reserve. The design is evocative of a transmission, with the gears and “shifter forks” clearly visible from above and through the transparent back. The vertical face is on the end of the watch, for easy viewing while driving, and utilizes a second hand and anodized black aluminum cylinders for the minutes and hours, plus a separate cylinder to show power reserve, all supported by red aluminum reinforcing bars. The complex shape of the case and of the sapphire crystal are meant to echo the shape of Ferrari’s latest über-car, the $1,300,000 LaFerrari (of which only 499 are to be made and all of which are already sold), through the use of black titanium and carbon parts and special windows into the soul. Both the car and the watch quicken the pulse, which somehow seems quite appropriate.
Parmigiani & Bugatti
Parmigiani was founded in Switzerland in 1996 and, for a relatively recent entry into the world of watches, they chose a remarkable partner in Bugatti, a company started in 1909 in Molsheim (then part of Germany but after WWI a part of France). This relationship has produced some very remarkable timepieces, most recently the Bugatti Super Sport Rose Gold pictured here, along with its namesake Bugatti Veyron Super Sport road rocket. Utilizing an innovative two-plane design, the main face presents an elevated view of the time and much of the intricate mechanical wizardry, while a second vertical face on the end of the watch incorporates an additional set of hands for viewing while driving.
Having six sapphire crystals surely must be some type of record, allowing the interested viewer to see in to every part of the watch, which is held in place by a specially-designed Hermès strap. Priced at $285,000, this watch looks fast even in the case but, while the silhouette is reminiscent of an airplane wing, the designers were actually giving a nod to the case lug of their Fleurier watch. When the long-rumored Bugatti Galibier arrives in 2015 (projected), the 1,000-horsepower four-door $1,200,000 sedan will need an accompanying watch and Parmigiani is up to the task, reportedly designing a dash clock which can be snapped out of the dash and placed into a separate mechanism so it can be worn on the driver’s wrist, in a pocket-watch case or even displayed as a desk clock. Not that the owner needs reminding that his Bugatti projectile awaits.
Breitling & Bentley
Breitling was founded in Switzerland in 1884, and Bentley was born in England in 1919, so these are two of the oldest companies in their respective fields. And their decade-long pairing has been an ambitious one, with innumerable Bentley-branded Breitlings to choose from. Interestingly, Breitling and Bentley have for some time now carried the relationship right into the cars themselves, installing Breitling-branded clocks on the dashes of Bentleys. The newest of the new is the Breitling for Bentley 24H Limited Edition ($10,925), in celebration of Bentley’s first and second place wins ten years ago upon their return to the Le Mans 24-Hour endurance race. This limited-edition watch (the series is limited to 288 pieces) utilizes Breitling’s new “in-house motor” – the self-winding mechanism developed entirely by the Breitling team – with a 70-hour power reserve. The rotating bezel of the watch furthers the knurled-metal design detail from the Bentley cars, most prominently featured in the Bentley Speed. The Bentley is quiet elegance personified, and this Breitling watch in particular furthers that tradition.
The newest Breitling for Bentley edition, released during August’s festivities for the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, is limited to only 288 pieces and was unveiled together with the launch of the new “Le Mans Limited Edition” Bentleys, a series comprised of six models of their cars: the Mulsanne (pictured above); the Continental GTW12 (both the standard and Speed editions); the Continental GT V8; and the Continental GT Convertible (both W12 and V8 editions). Only 48 cars of each of the six models will be produced and each vehicle will bear a unique “Le Mans Limited Edition” numbered badge. The 24H watch and the Le Mans Limited Edition cars – fitting tributes to a race-bred vehicle.
TAG Heuer & McLaren
TAG Heuer began life in Switzerland in 1860. TAG is short for Techniques d’Avant Garde (French for cutting-edge) and was founded by Edouard Heuer (which, perhaps not coincidentally, is remarkably close to “heure”, the French word for hour). McLaren is an English company, founded in 1963 by New Zealander Bruce McLaren, who was a team driver for the English Cooper Grand Prix team. The company has had a major role in several of the most famous races in the world, often winning at Formula One, Le Mans, Indianapolis 500 and other highly-competitive venues. These two companies have had an incredible relationship that has already lasted almost thirty years and was just renewed, adding the watch brand’s logo to the rear wing of the McLaren Formula One cars. TAG Heuer works very closely with McLaren’s technical engineering team on the creation of their timepieces. Guy Semon, who runs the TAG Heuer research and development group, was an aerospace engineer and a fighter jet test pilot so high-speed and ultra-performance machines are his strong suit.
TAG Heuer has become almost synonymous with timing at racing events and the most recent creation that shows its automotive genes is the TAG Heuer Carrera MP4-12C ($14,000). (Before you reach for your keyboard and fire off an angry missive about their use of the name “carrera” when not connected to Porsche, know that TAG Heuer used that name first. Also be aware that the word “carrera” means race in Spanish, as the first TAG Heuer Carrera was an homage to the 1950s-vintage Carrera PanAmericana, an historic street race in Mexico.) The MP4-12C (pictured above) is the approximately $240,000 McLaren road-going racer which commenced sales in 2011. The watch of the same name is offered in a 1,000-piece limited edition (each individually numbered) and is comprised of 363 components, includes 47 jewels and a 44-hour power reserve. The case is fabricated of sandblasted grade-2 titanium, the face has a black carbon outer ring with a clear crystal inner circle to allow viewing of the movement and the strap echoes the interior of the car – perforated black leather with orange stitching and lining. More good news for watch lovers – you don’t have to buy the car to qualify for the watch.
Jaeger-LeCoultre & Aston Martin
Just slightly older than its Swiss countryman Breitling, Jaeger-LeCoultre was founded in 1883, while Aston Martin was founded in 1913. Interestingly, the car company’s name was originally Bamford & Martin Ltd. but was changed soon after Lionel Martin had a major victory at the famous Aston Hill Climb in 1914. Their alliance began about ten years ago and to mark that milestone, as well as Aston Martin’s 100th birthday, Jaeger-LeCoultre created three new timepieces: the Master Hometime Aston Martin ($9,000); the Master Compressor Extreme W Alarm ($17,800); and the AMVOX5 World Chronograph Cermet ($22,200). The Master Hometime shows two time zones using a simplified design. The Master Compressor Extreme’s unique features include the ability to easily read the time for any of the world’s time zones and a black dial with alternating red and white indicators, meant to evoke the vents on an Aston Martin. And the World Chronograph Cermet utilizes reinforced cermet for the case, an extremely lightweight and shock-resistant space-age material.
With 45- to 65-hour power reserves and various additional features, the watches are evocative of the Aston Martin design cues and combine innovation, reliability and performance, traits shared by the watch and car companies. And if you really want something high-tech, get the transponder watch – it can lock and unlock the doors and flash the headlights on your Aston Martin DBS, DB9 (shown here) or Rapide, for prices in the low $30,000s.
IWC & Mercedes-Benz
IWC, the second-oldest of our Swiss watchmakers, was founded in 1868 as the International Watch Company and is known today as IWC Schaffhausen. (Like its corporate stable-mate Jaeger-LeCoultre, IWC is owned by Richemont, which also owns several other luxury watch brands.) Mercedes-Benz is a German company with roots back to 1886, when Karl Benz patented the first petrol-powered car and then to 1901, when Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG – Daimler Motors Corporation) converted a stagecoach and added a motor. The “Mercedes-Benz” name was adopted in 1926. IWC is the official engineering partner of Mercedes AMG Patronas Formula One and the entire Ingenieur (French for engineer) collection takes that relationship to a new level. The members of that collection evoke details from past Mercedes Formula One cars while also paying homage to M-B’s high-performance passenger cars.
1) IWC Ingenieur Chronograph Silberpfeil ($13,100): The design of this timepiece (pictured below), with its stopwatch, tachymeter scale and flyback function, comes to us directly from the legend of the historic Silver Arrow W25, a gleaming bare-metal race car from the mid-1930s (the general form of which is emulated by many kids ride-on toys of today). One obvious design similarity is the circular-grain dial on the watch, a tribute to the race car’s dashboard, which incorporated a steel surround with a similar circular-grain decoration.
2) IWC Ingenieur Automatic AMG Black Series Ceramic ($12,300): As a tribute to its namesake, the AMG road cars from Mercedes, the designers of this watch have optimized the use of black – some surfaces have a high-gloss, piano lacquer-like finish, others are silky matte, but all utilize the color prince of darkness. Inspired by AMG’s ceramic disc brakes, the case is made of zirconium oxide.
3) IWC Ingenieur Automatic Carbon Performance ($26,400): To mark its cooperation with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, IWC unveiled a new high-tech timepiece in a carbon case. The dial is made of carbon fiber and the rubber strap – with its stamped calfskin inlay stitched either with yellow or red nylon thread – is reminiscent of the stripes on the walls of soft and super-soft slick racing tires.
While many people today know Mercedes-Benz as a luxury car, these watches pay tribute to a time when Mercedes-Benz made some of the top performance cars in the world, a heritage which Mercedes is expanding on today through its participation in major car racing events.
If time (ironically) and space were not limited, there are many other fine timepieces worthy of inclusion in an article such as this but I hope that I have given readers a good start in the exploration of the world of fast time.